Introduction: Laser Cut Portable Chess Set

About: I enjoy designing models in CAD and 3D printing them. I also love photography and graphic design, which I utilize in my Instructables.

Chess is a great strategy game, both for beginners and advanced players alike. I decided to make my own chess board by laser cutting the entire board and all of the pieces to help improve my design skills and laser cutting skills. I also designed the chess board to be a box that can open and close, for easy transportation of your chess pieces.

Each piece in this set was meticulously designed, laser cut, and stained to form a beautiful wooden chess set one can use for years to come.

Step 1: Materials Needed

These are the materials / tools needed for this project.

1) Access to a laser cutter - There are a handful of online sources that can laser cut parts for you. I happened to have access to a laser cutter for this project, so I laser cut it myself. However, since most people probably don't have access to such expensive and specialized equipment, I am not going to fixate on the actual laser cutting process - I will only cover the essentials.

2) Access to an online design software - I used Adobe Illustrator to design the chess pieces. Feel free to use whichever software you want, or even just download my designs instantly on the next step.

3) Wood - If you are laser cutting this yourself, get a few sheets of plywood and cut them to fit inside of the laser cutter you are using. You can also experiment with other materials, such as acrylic.

4) Wood Markers - I used a couple of wood markers to color the faces of the chess pieces. Not required.

Step 2: Designing Your Chess Board

I believe that designs you use to laser cut, 3D print, etc should be your own. As such, I am not going to guide you point by point on how to create the designs for a chess set. I will tell you the basic process I took, and you can edit it to best suit your needs.

First of all, figure out how thick the wood you are using is. Use this information to make 2 rectangles - the base, and the actual chess board. The chess board should fit inside the base, with a gap the size of the thickness of the wood on all sides.

Now, using the "add anchor point" tool make 4 indentions in the base and 4 extrusions of the base size in the chess board. The extrusions should be as large as the base if you line them up, and the intrusions on the base should be as small as the chess board if you line them up.

Make 4 walls that have an intrusion on one of the long edge and an extrusion on the oppose edge. The extrusion will fit into the base and the intrusion will hold the chess board. Use a similar style of extrusions / intrusions to connect the 4 walls.

Finally, make alternating black and white tiles on the chess board. There should be 64 in total.

Step 3: Designing Your Chess Pieces

To design the chess pieces, I simply Googled images of chess pieces and followed the design style of one set I liked. I made all of the different pieces (pawns, knights, bishops, rooks, queens, kings) and then duplicated them so I would have enough for 2 sides (black and white) and a full chess set.

Then make a trapezoid that is the same length as the chess pieces you designed. "Cut out" a rectangle in the center of both the pieces and the trapezoid (preferably before duplicating) that is slightly larger than the thickness of the wood you are using. This will help the pieces slot together. Make 32 of these trapezoids total (one per piece).

Step 4: Laser Cutting Your Chess Set

Once you are done, make sure that you have followed all of the rules required by the online laser cutting service or your own laser cutting software. I had to make the borders of all of the pieces to cut out red and size 0.05 so the laser would know to cut them out, and all of the pieces that are black, well, black so that the laser cutter would know to etch them.

If you are using an online laser cutting service, great, simply send them whatever files they need. Otherwise, make sure to align your plywood in the laser cutter, make sure the laser is the proper distance from the wood, configure all of the settings in your chosen software, and laser away. Make sure to not let any of the pieces catch on fire for sustained amounts of time. Wear eyewear if your laser cutter doesn't have proper protection.

Step 5: Glue Pieces Together

In order to make our pieces 3D so they can stand up, we are going to attach the trapezoid bases to the pieces.

Put some glue inside the slots and push the two pieces together. Make sure the pieces can stand up. Otherwise, use some light sandpaper and sand away the bottom until they do.

Make sure to match up the right pieces with the right bases - you wouldn't want to put a white base on a black piece.

Step 6: Glue Board Together

Gluing the board together is an easy step. Apply glue on the intrusions of the base and slot the 4 walls into this piece. Make sure that they match up and all fit together. Also double check that the chess board fits on top of this box.

The purpose of this board is to help store pieces while on the go. In a future project I am thinking of cutting out sections of the chess board and putting magnets inside (along with some inside the pieces) so it is easier to use while traveling.

Step 7: Finishing Your Pieces and Board

We now need to add the final touches to our chess set. Take some wood markers (designed for use on furniture) and use them to make sure both sides of each chess piece are the same color (no white and black pieces!). I also used a light wood marker on the chess board to make sure that the etched squares were as nice as possible.

Why did I have to do this? I really wanted to have a nice wooden feel to this chess board, and decided to "color" the pieces by etching the black pieces black. I forgot that the pieces wouldn't be etched on the other side. Using a marker helped both of the sides be the same color. The first picture is a good comparison - the knight on the right has marker, and the one on the left doesn't (the dark spots were burn marks).

Step 8: Storing Your Pieces

You could optionally put small magnets on the bottom of the chess board and on the top of the box to help secure your lid. However, I found that my chess board fit perfectly together, without the need for additional adhesives.

When you are done playing, simply pop off the chess board, slide the pieces into the box, and put the lid back on. The rectangular shape of the box makes it easy to pack too.

Step 9: Finish!

I hope you enjoyed this project! Laser cutting is one of my favorite ways of making because of how interesting it is to design something and see it come to life from a single piece of plywood.

Above and in the intro are some nice shots of this chess board "in action".

This project is reasonably easy to do, so if you choose to make it yourself please upload pictures and any suggestions you might have.

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